18 Feb Strengthen Your Relationship Today: Some Ideas to Get Started, By Sarah Frank Jarvis LMFT, ATR-BC, CGP
In a relationship it’s normal to sometimes feel like separate planets in orbit, at times crossing paths and at others moving apart, as you both circumnavigate the same sun. Life gets busy, not all interests are shared (or should be), work can be demanding of our attention and time (gotta keep the lights on), not to mention if we have responsibilities as parents or caregivers (or both). But the one, most essential thing is making sure we have a strong alliance with our partner. A strong foundation of love, trust, and respect is at the core of every good relationship. It does not just magically wink into existence but grows and strengthens with time and through shared experiences. By purposefully practicing compassion for one another and mindfully attuning to our partner’s needs we foster interdependence, the ability to be mutually dependent and dependable.
At times we may need to strengthen our bonds in a relationship. Certainly during difficult or trying life circumstances, impacting one or both partners, it is important to be able to depend on one another for support, encouragement, and reassurance. There are many ways to fortify the connections we share with our partners, ranging from specific and focused actions to regular practices that become integrated into our daily lives.
One of my favorite practices for building closeness and connection is through the daily routines of parting and reuniting. Maybe you already do this but, if not, it could start to create some very noticeable results. Here is how it is done: when you part ways with your partner (for work, visits with friends or family, or to go grocery shopping) make an effort to embrace and/or kiss for at least than five seconds and then, while looking into each others’ eyes, exchange some endearing words (“I love you”, “I’ll miss you”, “be thinking about you”). Feels a bit different from rushing out the door, yelling “be home by 6!” doesn’t it?
If your relationship is struggling and communication feeling more difficult it may be necessary to jumpstart things. This may look like seeking out couples counseling or attending a workshop or seminar together on relationships. It could simply be initiating a conversation after taking some time to write down goals or needs you have for your relationship and asking your partner about their goals and needs. With some communication tools and clarification of each other’s needs and wants you can add a little creativity by making a collage together of pictures depicting your goals, dreams, or visions as a couple. If you want to get playful while opening up more lines for connection I recommend looking into games or apps for couples, one of which is “Gottman Card Decks”, put out by the Gottman institute. The app has different categories of virtual card decks with questions and/or suggestions that you can scroll through and take turns asking each other. Activities such as this are wonderful ways to bond and increase your knowledge and appreciation of one another.
There are many ways to strengthen bonds with your partner and improve your relationship if you take the initiative to seek them out and give them a try.